Vicky Arias, FISM News
Walgreens announced Thursday that it won’t sell abortion drugs in 20 states where Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action.
Walgreens’ decision comes after 20 state attorneys general from, among others, Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas, sent a letter to the company in February, opposing the pharmacies’ intention to distribute the abortion pill, mifepristone.
Citing a federal law that prohibits dispensing abortion drugs through the mail, as well as the dangers of the medication, the attorneys general stated their right to litigation should the pharmacy chain pursue obtaining certification to sell mifepristone in their states.
Prior to 2021, mifepristone, part of a drug regimen used to end a pregnancy, was only available during an in-person visit to a medical professional. However, during the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made it possible to obtain the drug by mail through specialized pharmacies after a video visit with a clinician.
‘BIZARRE INTERPRETATION’ OF THE LAW
Then, in January of this year, the FDA expanded allowances once again, permitting not only specialized pharmacies but retail pharmacies, like Walgreens, to dispense abortion pills as well. Those pharmacies must apply for certification to dispense mifepristone and may choose to send it to patients in the mail using various mail carriers.
The FDA’s decision has brought heated debate between conservatives and liberals about the legality of mail-order abortion drugs.
“The abortion pill not only takes the life of a preborn child, it also poses serious health risks to women who generally take them with little medical supervision and, at times, far from any available emergency medical care,” Daniel stated.
Title 18 Section 1461 of federal law clearly states that “every … substance, drug, medicine, or thing [that] may, or can, be used … for producing abortion … is declared to be non-mailable matter and shall not be conveyed in the mails or delivered from any post office or by any letter carrier.”
In a 2022 memo, the Biden administration attempted to placate the U. S. Postal Service’s questioning of delivering mifepristone by providing them with a strained interpretation of section 1461. While the memo admits that abortion drug delivery “by any letter carrier” is unlawful, it contradicts itself by stating that it’s okay for the post office to deliver the drugs as long as the sender didn’t mean for the recipient to use the drugs unlawfully.
The attorneys general explained to Walgreens that they “reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation” of the law “and … expect courts will as well.” Their letter continued, stating that “courts do not lightly ignore the plain text of statutes.”
As of February 2022, the Guttmacher Institute found that “medication abortion accounted for 53% of all facility-based abortions in the United States in 2020.”
According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life organization, “chemical abortion drugs are more likely to send women to the emergency room, [and] the rate of chemical abortion-related emergency room visits increased over 500% between 2002-2015.”
The pro-life group also pointed out that making these drugs easily available could pose a risk for women in abusive relationships.
“With no medical oversight, abortion pills can fall into the hands of traffickers and abusive partners,” the group stated. “Already, there are accounts of women being given abortion pills without their knowledge and against their will. The risk of forced abortions will increase if the pills are available online without an in-person visit with the woman’s doctor.”
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), part of the Southern Baptist Convention, says Walgreen’s decision doesn’t go far enough to protect the lives of the unborn.
“This is far short of what is needed by, and what we’ve asked of, Walgreens, which is to not go down this path at all, not just in some 20 states but every state,” Hannah Daniel, policy manager for the ELRC, said.